Forty years ago (on December 13 to be exact), an 11-year-old ‘country’ girl became the first winner of the Tastee’s Talent competition, beating rising deejay Yellowman and singer Paul Blake.
This girl would grow to become the sprightly performer and dancehall hitmaker Nadine Sutherland, who was often likened to a ‘Jamaican Whitney Houston’ by producers in the 1990s.
“Thank you for embracing me all these years.”— Nadine Sutherland
In a series of Instagram posts, Sutherland reflected on the feat as a dreamer from Above Rocks, St Catherine, who won the quarterfinals in June 1979, a day after finding out she passed her Common Entrance Exam, and would be attending the St Andrew High School for Girls. The finals took place that December where she walked away the winner and subsequently launched a music career.
“After that the Cinderella life started. I was introduced to Bob Marley, and through his vision I was able to do my first song, Starvation On The Land (written by Anthony ‘Sangie’ Davis),” the 51-year-old said in a video.
She moved on to become a background vocalist for producer Augustus ‘Gussie’ Clarke and worked on Peter Tosh’s 1988 Grammy-winning album, No Nuclear War. With the gritty turn of dancehall music in the 1980s, Sutherland found herself caught between not wanting to disappoint her Rastafarian father, but also wanting to explore different musical styles without constraint.
Her early records include I Want To Go Home on the Penthouse Label and Dirty Talk featuring Papa San, released in 1992. Action was released the following year with toaster Terror Fabulous and catapulted Sutherland to mainstream stardom.
As Sutherland recalled in a personal interview, she became the “go-to singer” for producers looking to score a smooth chorus paired with the hardcore verses of male performers. As heard on songs like the 1995 all-star Penthouse classic Anything For You (led by Snow), Wicked Dickie with Buju Banton and Man Haffi Wicked with Spragga Benz, the formula worked.
Sutherland has also secured her own solo hits with tracks like Babyface produced by Philip ‘Fatis’ Burrell and I’m In Love that was produced by Robert ‘Bobby Digital’ Dixon and Barry O’Hare.
“There are so many songs that I’ve done that you’ve appreciated and loved and you’ve given me a chance to express myself as a songwriter and as a dancer, and so many other aspects of the arts,” Sutherland told fans.
“Thank you for embracing me all these years. Thank you all for sometimes making me see myself from even a better perspective cause sometimes you see me even bigger and larger than I even see myself… More records will be coming, I will be doing a lot more.”
Nadine holds a master’s degree in cultural studies from the University of the West Indies. She has also served as the director of performing arts at the Challenge Preparatory Charter School in New York (2017 – 2018). She is also a former judge on televised talent show, Digicel Rising Stars.